Skip to main content

Full text of "A search in secret Egypt"

zoo            A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
immemorial work, in the manner and with the tools of their forefathers of Biblical times. Their oxen ploddingly and patiently turned the selfsame creaking water-wheel that the oxen of their forefathers had turned. Their camels snarlingly bore the same great loads that had towered upon the backs of beasts of burden in Pharaonic times. They had scratched and turned the rich soil of this narrow strip of land that is Egypt for countless times, yet they had never exhausted and never could exhaust its astonishing, prolific fertility. Harvests grew and were gathered in these peaceful emerald plains, these opulent flat fields of Nile mud, with an ease hardly to be matched in any other country of the world. Unfailingly there came every year that welcome benediction of the Nile's rise, when the much-travelled waters changed as by magic from blue to brown and steadily lapped their way upwards, depositing the priceless gift of freshly vitalized mud over the baked lands. Yes, the old Nile was as a .mother to its fortunate children who lived along its banks, and who somewhat pathetically trusted their aged parent to nourish them with her milk.
I gazed in the river's direction. The Nile! What magic lies in that name? Twice every day the priests of Egypt had to bathe their bodies in its waters in order to preserve their purity, and twice every night. In India the Brahmin priests do the same thing to-day, for the same purpose; save that they pour the waters of the Ganges or Godivari over themselves, and save that they do not disturb their nights. Both Egyptians and Indians had the same theory—that man picks up an invisible personal magnetism from his contact and intercourse with other persons^ and that frequent washings were necessary to get rid of these acquired influences, which might so often be undesirable, if not worse.
But the Nile is more than a great ribbon of water; more than a river that stretches down half a continent: it is a living entity, an intelligent creature, which has taken up the burden of feeding millions of men, wt>men and children, beasts and birds, alike. For countless centuries it has deposited strip kfter strip of mud upon the fields, making Egypt the paradox of our planet. It is the only country I know whose fields are so fertile, yerin no other land have I seen so little rain. Such is the magic action of this friendly stream, which has turned a strip of desert lying between two parallel lines of tawny heights into profitable, prolific soil. There, in the fields below this temple roof, the